Spring Tidy Up or Spring, Where are you?



So here it is the first week of April and you would imagine we would be having some beautiful spring like weather but not here in southern Ontario – its been snowy and windy all week. Oh my gosh the wind has been incredible today(Wednesday actually I just didn’t get a chance to post this rant about the weather). It happens, of course, to be recycling and compost pick up day and all the bins on the street have tipped over. I had to bundle up and go out there to pick up my recycling that had tipped over. I had to chase my stuff all around the yard to get it back into the bin all the while the wind was howling and the garbage was flying in all directions.(so much for my hairdo!) It’s just too cold and windy to go out in the garden it really is a bummer! Here we are it’s supposed to be spring and I cannot seem to get into the garden. I hope you are fairing better than me.

I must admit that I did get in into the garden for a bit last week, back on Wednesday, March 28th . I had been out running errands in the morning, all bundled up in my winter coat because it was so cold outside, but in the afternoon the sun burst through the clouds. I realised I was overheating and that it had become warm out and bonus it was dry underfoot! I thought oh gosh its nice enough to go into the garden. So I dashed home and upstairs to change into my gardening clothes and out I went. I personally don’t like to go out in the garden when it’s too cold or wet as it seems to get into my bones and tends to make me stiff and sore. But it was warm enough to go out and I was outside for a couple of blissful hours and it felt so good. Yes, so good to be back into the garden – my old friend!

20180328_162652What I did was get some before and after pictures so you can see why I am indeed a self proclaimed messy gardener. I still have a thick layer of leaf mulch around the plants which I put down in the fall. It’s amazing I put so much mulch in the garden, it was quite thick, I made trip after trip collecting leaves. I use these tiny leaves from the locust trees so I don’t have to mulch or shred them and I had lots and lots of them. I put this mulch all through my gardens but its not so thick anymore so it does disappear over the winter. 

20180328_162603 I went out there just to trim back the dead plants because I leave a lot of perennial plants and grasses tall for winter interest. I was trimming back or cutting them to the ground while working from the back of the garden to the front. I know that if we do get some warm weather things are going to pop up everywhere and then, for me, I can’t get into the garden as its kind of hard not to step on the plants once they start coming up.

Corner of the garden showing how the loose grasses and dried hosta leaves make the garden look so messy.

I like to pick up all the loose long grasses as I have ornamental grasses, you end up with these long blond or yellow straw like things in the garden that tend to make it look messy. My personal pet peeve. I literally go in and hand pick all of these and then with my pruners I cut them into approximately 3 inch pieces and then put them right back into the garden.

Snowdrops pushing through the leaf mulch

If there are leaves that are at the back of the garden that are not mulched I leave them there or stick them behind a bush as they seem to disappear anyways. The more mulch I have over my hard clay soil the better my garden is and the better it stays moist when we get into the hot dry weather. At this stage, of course, you don’t want to pull the mulch from the plants themselves even if they are coming up because of, well ,- cold days like today!

Tidy corner of the garden once the loose grasses have been removed.

Today we also have snow, it is blowing snow and its not landing and staying but it could have and that would burn the tips of the new growth. I leave the mulch as it is and eventually when the weather is warmer you can push it back or push it out of the way and it stays in the garden and slowly disappears over time.

So I do not rake anything out of my garden anymore and I add a new layer each season as I am trying to create a rich organic layer over the clay soil.

Pond area to tackle next.

Now I was thinking that this year I would like to add in free mushroom manure as a layer over the garden. We have a mushroom farm close by and various neighbours have put it on their gardens but because of my little sheltie, Molly, I am reluctant to try it but I have heard it is very good for a perennial garden. I’d love to try it but I am kind of worried as I wouldn’t want Molly to be rolling in it and I’m not sure myself how much I want to be putting my hands in this stuff either. I do like getting into the garden and getting my hands dirty so I keep waffling so I have not done this yet. I have thought I could put a few bags or so on the front garden and then try and leave that alone. I don’t know it is a hard habit to break. I’m going to have to think about it.

Another option is to get free compost from the town but I think that will not be ready until May. I do feel better about the town mulch as it is composted garden waste rather than manure.

If you have any experience with mushroom manure or layering I would love to know your thoughts. That’s all I can think of for now. Where ever you are I hope you are out in the garden and not experiencing the kind of spring I’m having where it’s too cold, too wet and snowing to garden! Bye for now.

Grumpy Gardener.

Spring Tidy Up List:

  1. Don’t rake. Leave the leaf mulch around the plants

  2. Trim back the dead growth on the perennials and ornamental grasses

  3. Hand pick long loose grasses and twigs, then cut them down to approximately 3″ pieces and put them back in the garden.

  4. Add a new layer of free mushroom manure over top of the leaf mulch

  5. In May add a new layer of free town compost over the manure & leaf mulch

    Purple Allium flower pushing through the leaf mulch.

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